I realize some of you may lose some...or all...respect for me for even sharing the details I am about to. I can assure you, this isn't a story I want to publish. It brings me nothing but embarrassment. Yet, for the last few days, I have felt convicted to share. And even though I don't want to, I'm going to. So if your perception of me changes, I hope our relationship doesn't.
Almost five years ago, I had my very last alcoholic drink. I wasn't an alcoholic. In fact, I was a social drinker. A lively party friend. A fun drinker. I drank once in a while, sometimes not even once a month, when we were with friends. Or family. But when I drank...dear gracious. I drank. And drank. I had no off button. And a guaranteed way to make me drink more was to tell me I should stop drinking.
I am a binge drinker.
Nearly five years ago, I drove to Wyoming to sing at my best friend's vow-renewal ceremony. There was a marvelous reception afterwards, which was more or less a class reunion. I danced with the little kids. I danced with my friends. I danced by myself. And in between cutting a rug, I drank Morgan and Diets. Lots of them. We closed down the bar and I was in no condition to drive the eight blocks to my parents' house. I hitched a ride. From the bride and groom.
So here it was, one of the most special nights of my friends' life, and I sat in the back seat of their truck. Drunk. They took me to my parents' house and we sat outside talking for a while. Suddenly, I had to pee. Badly.
I excused myself from their truck and fumbled at the front door, trying to get the key in the knob. I dropped the keys. I picked them up and hurriedly tried to unlock the door. I couldn't hold it anymore. There, at 28 years of age, on a freezing cold night, I peed on my parents' doorstep.
And it froze.
Once I finally made it inside, I apparently dropped my coat off on the kitchen floor, went downstairs, took a fifteen second shower, changed into sweats, and went back outside - not closing the door all the way behind me - to the truck.
While spending even more time ruining my best friend's magical evening, I cried some emotional tears over the state of my marriage, world peace, and other booze-infused woes. Finally, at 5:00 in the morning, they dropped me off, said goodnight, and went home to try to catch a few hours of sleep before catching an early morning flight to spend a renewal honeymoon.
I woke up far too early, before 8:00, and called my husband. I told him what had transpired the night before. His sympathetic "Oh, honey...." prompted me to tell him, "Babe...I have to quit drinking." He knew it. I knew it. It was time.
I walked upstairs and pretended to be anything other than hungover. The first words out of Dad's mouth were, "What's with the frozen puddle on the doorstep? What'd you do, pee?" I was mortified. And why on earth would that be the first thing he would assume? I made something up. I told him I upchucked all the water I had chugged before leaving the bar. Mom came in. "Valerie, you had us worried sick. And what is the frozen puddle on the doorstep? Pee?" If I ever felt three inches tall...it was at that moment. I lied again.
The rest of the day I was sick. Hungover. And contemplative. Here I had driven 700+ miles to be a part of my friend's special day, and made it all about me and my drunken stupor. I, once again, lost total control of my willpower and responsibility, and as a result, sacrificed my dignity. Again. I reflected on the other times I had let myself get carried away. Never did I end up proud of myself. Never were the pictures taken any bit flattering. Never did I wake up the next day and think, "You know what? I made the world a better place by being completely drunk last night. Good on you, Val. Good on you." No. All quite the contrary. I was always ashamed, always embarrassed, and always questioning my own character.
The last drink I had was sometime shortly before 2:00 a.m. on March 1st, 2009. The very last drink. I haven't had a drop since.
And here's the kicker. I didn't just stop drinking because I brought embarrassment upon myself. I didn't just stop drinking because I was tired of the headaches and the nausea. I didn't just stop drinking because every picture taken of me while drunk looked like I was about to trip over my drooping eyelids. I quit drinking because none of the behavior I exhibited while drunk was anything I wanted to leave as my legacy. I quit drinking because I realized I couldn't drink responsibly in social settings.
I quit drinking because I couldn't be the God-honoring woman I desperately desired to be, especially while under the influence of alcohol.
Now let me be absolutely clear; I do not condemn the consumption of alcohol, nor do I think you're wrong or bad if you drink. So many of you are so responsible, and that is highly commendable. I, however, wasn't one of those people. I had a problem. I let alcohol get the better of me more often than not. So this post isn't about drinking, or alcohol, or me passing judgement on anyone who participates in said activities. It's about me, and why I quit drinking. Please don't read more into it than that.
And for the record, I came clean months later to my parents and told them their suspicions had been correct. Totally weird for them to even think of or consider, but correct.
I get asked a lot if I'll ever drink again. As if this is some hiatus from imbibing to prove my willpower and self-control are more powerful than I gave myself credit for, and once the proof is out there, I can just pick up and drink again. The answer to the question is no. I won't ever drink again. Would I be able to control myself? Most likely. But it isn't part of my life anymore. And it doesn't need to be. And I'm okay with that.